What is safeguarding?

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is committed to safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults as part of the life and ministry of the Church.

“The Commission considers it very important that the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults is seen as an integral part of the mission of the Church, one that it is firmly rooted in our belief that each individual has a unique worth created in the image and likeness of God” (2016)

This commitment is expressed in foundational safeguarding principles. For example:

Safeguarding In a context of faith #


We share Pope Francis’ “conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused” (Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life Concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, February 2, 2015).”

Foreword from the Sponsoring Bodies–NBSCCI

“We must remember that children are an integral part of the Church and must be cherished, cared for and safeguarded. We are reminded of this point in Matthew 25:40, ‘whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers you do unto me’.”

“Safeguarding Children”–NCSC

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of minors is defined as:
• Protecting children from maltreatment;
• Preventing impairment of children’s health and development;
• Ensuring that children are growing up with safe and effective care;
• Enabling children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.”

In acknowledging the sin and the crime of sexual abuse of children, young adults and vulnerable persons #


“The damage caused by sexual abuse of minors is devastating and longlasting. We apologize to each victim for the grave harm that has been inflicted on him or her, and we offer our help now and for the future.”

“Safeguarding is Everyone’s Responsibility–ACSL

“Catholic Professional Standards Ltd acknowledges the lifelong trauma of abuse victims, survivors and their families, the failure of the Catholic Church to protect, believe and respond justly to children and vulnerable adults, and the consequent breaches of community trust. Catholic Professional Standards Ltd is committed to fostering a culture of safety and care for children and vulnerable adults.”

“Foreword from Sponsoring Bodies”–NBSCCCI

“We acknowledge that the harm any of our members have caused to children, and our failures to adequately address these wrongdoings, have had an enormous impact on our children and on our Church.”

In upholding the rights of children and vulnerable persons #

“Article 3”–UN

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”
Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations, article 3 (1989)

“Child Safeguarding Policy Statement of the Constituent Members of the Catholic Church in Ireland”–NBSCCCI

“As a constituent member of the Catholic Church in Ireland, we recognise and uphold the dignity and rights of all children, are committed to ensuring their safety and well-being, and will work in partnership with parents/guardians to do this. We recognise each child as a gift from God, and we value and encourage the participation of children in all activities that enhance their spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual and social development.”

“Policy Statement”–NCSC

“The Catholic Church of England and Wales, the Bishops and Religious Congregational Leaders are committed to safeguarding as an integral part of the life and ministry of the Church and affirm a ‘One Church’ approach to safeguarding children, young people and adults at risk through the promotion of a sustained culture of constant vigilance. The ‘best interests’ or ‘paramount chief principle’, which underpins and is enshrined in child and adult protection legislation, shall be the primary consideration in all matters of safeguarding.”

In establishing safe, caring environments #

 Child and Youth Protection–USCCB

“Dioceses will establish ‘safe environment’ programs. They will cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children. Dioceses will make clear to clergy and members of the community the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons in positions of trust with regard to sexual abuse.”

In safe recruitment of personnel #

“Working Together for a Safer Church”–The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand

“The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to fostering a culture of safeguarding to ensure children and vulnerable adults are protected from harm, and the adults engaged to provide services and ministry to children and vulnerable adults are supported in their roles.
A key preventative strategy is to uphold and maintain safe recruitment processes including training for all Church employees and volunteers who work with or provide ministry to children or vulnerable adults.”

In listening to people who have suffered abuse, their families and communities #


“The steps we are taking have been shaped in large part by our conversations as individuals and groups of bishops with survivors of abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church in Ireland. They involve a commitment to transparency and to continuing to implement best practice in safeguarding children into the future. They include a commitment to continue to listen and respond and to make available a wider range of spiritual and liturgical resources to assist in healing.
In the care, supervision and referral to the proper authorities of any member of the church community known to have offended against a child, young person or vulnerable adult.”

In promptly responding to allegations of abuse #

“Vos Estis lux mundi”–Pope Francis

“Dioceses and Eparchies must establish within a year from the entry into force of these norms, one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports. … Any person can submit a report concerning the conduct referred to in article 1, using the methods referred to in the preceding article, or by any other appropriate means.”

In cooperation with civil and ecclesial authorities #

“Vos estis lux mundi”–Pope Francis

“These norms apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities.”

In Monitoring and ministering to accused #


“No priest or deacon who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor may be transferred for ministerial assignment to another diocese/eparchy or religious province. Before a priest or deacon can be transferred … his bishop/eparch or religious ordinary shall forward, in a confidential manner, to the local bishop/eparch and religious ordinary (if applicable) any and all information concerning any act of sexual abuse of a minor and any other information … Every bishop/eparch or religious ordinary who receives a priest or deacon from outside his jurisdiction will obtain the necessary information regarding any past act of sexual abuse of a minor by the priest or deacon in question.”

In monitoring compliance with safeguarding standards and practices #

“What is the Point of the Safeguarding Audit”–SCSS

“The audit is intended to provide a transparent view of how effectively the Church is embracing a culture of safeguarding that respects, protects and nurtures the dignity of all people, keeps them safe and is compliant with legislation. Effective auditing and planning should be a continuous commitment which underpins the development of good safeguarding practice. The completed audit – and the plans for improvement that emerge from it – are intended to provide helpful direction on how safeguarding practice will continue to be improved. Careful analysis of the data gathered in each year’s audit informs our ongoing safeguarding work, enabling us to see what is working well, to identify what needs to be improved and to plan for that improvement.”

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